I thought about this after the first month, the first semester, over winter break, and several other times...but now that the school year is over it feels right. And I have time, which is kind of what this is about. I just finished up my first year in an MFA program and I'm wondering how the other first-years out there are thinking about their experiences.
A couple thoughts to get us started:
1) Where did the time go? I feel like I was just looking for an apartment and registering for fall courses. Now I'm halfway done (I'm in a two-year program). I tried to remember along the way that this was going to feel quick, to take it all in, to take advantage of every opportunity...but did I? The first 4-6 weeks was a blur. Between moving, orientation, workshops, classes, writing center duties, reading series events, events outside the program, home life drama, and whatever else I'm forgetting, well, it's going to take some time to sort it all out. I'm happy with my productivity but my main resolution at the end of the year was to spend the summer building a time machine. Or a time-slowing machine.
2) What am I doing? I'm interested in what your course loads (or maybe it's a matter of "course balance"?) looked like. I spent a lot of time on graduate seminar work -- theory, term papers, presentations, etc. -- and every minute spent away from my stories felt wrong. I understand the value of taking such classes, and I benefited from my time in the seminars (a great Southern Lit. class, in particular), but am I using this time to write stories or to write term papers? The second semester was easier than the first because I made sure to put my stories at the top of the list. It was way too easy in the fall to feel like I needed to be everything for everyone -- the best writing center tutor, the best pseudo-PhD candidate, whatever... Sure, my seminar work probably suffered in the spring, but I saw a much better progression in my stories, and that feels like where I need to be. I'm sure that would change a bit if I was interested in the post-MFA PhD route, but I don't think that's in the cards.
So it's all about time, time, time. Where did it go, and how did I spend it? I'd sure like to hear how other writers feel about their first years, and I bet the conversation would be helpful for those starting this fall, too.